Impact Investing

As needs in our communities grow faster than dollars, the Council is joining the conversation about unlocking new capital for social good. For decades, foundations have made impact investments that intend to generate financial and social returns to complement grants, partnerships, advocacy, and other tools in the philanthropic toolbox.

What is impact investing?

We define impact investing as any investment activity that intends to generate positive social and financial returns.

How is the Council involved?

In 2013, the Council is joining the impact investing conversation happening among foundations and other types of investors. As a connector, the Council is:

  • Listening to our members and making connections.
  • Organizing provocative conversations among foundations and other partners.
  • Aggregating resources to demystify the process.
  • Building relationships with thought leaders and intermediaries
  • Hosting an ongoing blog series on RE: Philanthropy.

How can you get involved?

  • Read and comment on the impact investing blog series.
  • E-mail us or take this survey to let us know what your foundation thinks about impact investing.
  • Follow the hashtag #impinv on Twitter.

The Council is issuing a Call for Sessions to leading civil and social innovators. We are looking to you for well-developed sessions that offer diverse perspectives, concrete solutions, and fresh insights into our Spotlight Issue: The Role of Philanthropy in an Increasingly Polarized Society.

This is an incredibly exciting time at the Council on Foundations. We recently wrapped up our Fall Conference for Community Foundations Conference in San Diego, our fourth major conference since I came to the Council. We have launched several major products, such as a study on private foundation investment strategies, a field guide on impact investing, and a strategy toolkit. We also created a series of useful materials for Community Foundation Week that will allow our members to more effectively tell their stories of place-based philanthropy.

This issue brief from the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) details the motivations, benefits, considerations and suitable scenarios behind the use of catalytic first-loss capital in impact investing transactions. Catalytic first-loss capital refers to socially- and environmentally-driven credit enhancement provided by an investor or grant-maker who agrees to bear first losses in an investment in order to catalyze the participation of co-investors that otherwise would not have entered the deal. Catalytic first-loss capital has gained recent prominence in impact investing dialogue as more investors look to enter the market.

The Impact Investor Project was established in 2012 as a two-year research partnership between InSight at Pacific Community Ventures, CASE at Duke University, and ImpactAssets. The goal was simple: supplant the guesswork and conjecture in impact investing with solid evidence of high performance and, in the process, expose the concrete practices of outstanding funds for use as the foundation for a more sophisticated and successful market.

In this report the World Economic Forum Investors Industries consulted the senior most decision-makers and portfolio managers of the largest and most innovative investors in the world; this facilitated a more realistic vantage point on the challenges in scaling the sector. Working with this group was also instrumental in raising awareness and knowledge among key stakeholders for taking impact investing from the margins into the mainstream.

In summer 2011, the Maine Community Foundation, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the Vermont Community Foundation came together, with the help of GPS Capital Partners and TPI, to jointly evaluate the potential for expanding impact investing as a program strategy and donor service. This case study looks at the role impact investing could play in those three community foundations and throughout northern New England.

The interactive Field Guide takes community foundations through three main stages of the impact investing journey: Learn, Design, and Activate. At each stage, visitors can click on various topics within that stage to learn more about what the topic entails and how other community foundations have approached place-based investing.

Prepared by the Southern New Hampshire University's School of Community Economic Development and available through Mission Investors Exchange, this case study explores the details of the F.B. Heron Foundation's rationale, exploration, and implementation of its mission-related investment strategy, and reviews tools (including PRIs), specific investments, interim outcomes, and lessons learned. The case study provides a walk-through of how Heron applies its Mission-related Investment Continuum to its portfolio.